Gov. Dave Heineman insisted today that LB 599 is about providing illegal immigrants with taxpayer-funded benefits and dismissed suggestions by supporters that it is a pro-life bill.
The Unicameral voted 31-15-3 to approve the prenatal bill, despite the governor’s threat that he would veto it. The legislature needs at least 30 votes to overturn a veto. The governor has followed through with the threat and vetoed the bill.
The bill would extend Medicaid benefits for pregnant mothers to the poor, including illegal immigrants. Federal objections to how the state ran a similar program ended prenatal care for approximately 1,600 women in 2010. More than 1,000 of the women were in the country illegally. The program costs approximately $2.5 million. The state portion is projected to total $654,000 per year.
Heineman, in his veto letter to the legislature, noted that the state restored funding of prenatal care for most of the women.
I am returning LB 599 & LB599A without my signature and with my objections.
The issue presented by LB 599 is not the importance of prenatal care to the development of a child. We all agree that expectant mothers should seek out and utilize prenatal care as the benefits of such care are without question. Most Nebraskans pay for prenatal care themselves. Nothing in current law prohibits health centers, hospitals, clinics, private donors, or other benefactors across the state from assisting those in need of care, regardless of their immigration status.
The issue presented by LB 599 is whether or not over $2.5 million in tax dollars from hard-working Nebraskans should be used each year to pay for prenatal services for women who broke the immigration laws, became pregnant, and are in Nebraska at the time of their pregnancies. This issue should not to be confused with providing prenatal services to low-income women who are citizens or are otherwise lawfully present in Nebraska. Taxpayers already fund these services through the Medicaid program for women up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
During a news conference in his Capitol office, Heineman stated he vetoed the prenatal bill, because it would provide taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants.
“From my perspective, the most important reason still goes back to the fact that illegal immigrants should not be receiving taxpayer-funded benefits from the state of Nebraska,” Heineman told reporters during a question and answer period.
“You got Nebraskans who have worked hard all their life, they paid their taxes, they played by the rules and, then someone who chose to come here illegally and is now going to get taxpayer-funded benefits,” Heineman said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”
Also, in his veto letter, Heineman suggested that state money could flow of Planned Parenthood under LB 599.
The proponents of LB 599 would lead you to believe that it is a pro-life bill. I disagree. I am pro-life and I am proud of my record as Governor on pro-life issues.
Earlier in the session, this Legislature voted to adopt an amendment to other legislation, LB 540, to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to support any medical provider that performs or promotes elective abortions. LB 599 contains no similar restriction on using taxpayer dollars to pay vendors that perform or promote abortions.
I have grave concerns about this bill incorporating a federal law mandate to provide pre-pregnancy family planning services and supplies without there being any restriction that would prevent such funding from ending up in the hands of entities such as Planned Parenthood, or other doctors, hospitals, and clinics that perform and promote abortions.
Heineman, during the news conference, denied his suggestion that Planned Parenthood could receive funds was an effort to undermine lawmaker arguments that the bill is pro-life.
“Well, I’ve said all along, this is about illegal immigration and I think that’s where it is for most people,” according to Heineman.
Supporters and detractors have issued conflicting public opinion poll results on the issue. Heineman suggested the different results could be attributable to how the various polls were worded.
“It does depend on the question you ask, but it is about illegal, pregnant moms receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. That’s what’s infuriating to everyone.” Heineman said. “Again, we support prenatal care, but in the case of illegals, that should be done by private charities or private organizations.”
Heineman has vetoed the prenatal bill, LB 357 giving cities authority to ask voters for a sales tax increase and LB 806 allowing gambling on historic horse racing. The legislature meets Wednesday morning to consider motions to override the vetoes.